Saddle up! But beware potential spoilers in this review, which will discuss elements of the episode.
The dominant themes on this week’s Westworld? Flashbacks and exposition. Fortunately, the former actually helped fill in the current plot(s) and the latter was delivered by the likes of Anthony “Model VR Ford” Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright, so they still sounded impressive and rarely boring. Les Écorchés felt like a season finale instead of an episode winding towards it, as so much incident was packed in, it sometimes felt like Peter Abernathy’s overstuffed brain. But if you were at all worried that recent instalments had felt like meanders instead of plot highways, this was the M25 for you. Well, the M25 when it’s clear. So the M25 between the hours of 2:25am and 3:15am, then. Overextended road metaphors aside, this was an excellent example of the show living up to its promise.
Let’s start with the various Bernard timelines. Jeffrey Wright’s certainly getting a good acting workout once again, playing the many different versions of our favourite fake human/real host. The different journeys Bernard goes on this week help to fill in many of the details that, in a further example of the show’s Achilles Heel, eagle-eyed and sharp-minded fans had started to figure out already. In Westworld‘s creative team’s defence, at least they provided a lot more answers in good time. And there’s still the mystery of the valley flood to be solved.
Bernard’s trip down memory lane (literally at one point) allowed Ford to explain a lot of what has been going on – the fact that the park was designed not simply to entice people, but to have them drop their defences so they can be studied in raw form and coders can start to figure out how to copy a human mind for Delos’ immortality project. So far, as we’ve seen with James Delos himself (and, to an extent, Bernard), it’s not working well in the real world, but Ford and co. have cracked it within the Cradle. And with nothing likely to happen to that, all will be… Oh, right. Cradle go boom boom. Ford, fortunately for him (and unfortunately for poor, tortured Bernard) was able to download himself into his creation’s brain, and thus we know why Bernard has been doing such horrible things in one of the timelines: it’s all Hannibal Lec… Ford’s fault. We just hope there are no lambs wandering by, or QA team members with tasty livers.
That storyline merged with the attack by Dolores, TerminaTeddy and her team on the Mesa main base. It was a bloody hour of the show, with QA members slaughtered (Teddy was particularly violent again this week, and now dressed in natty black stolen QA armour). It also meant that Dolores and Charlotte Hale got their long-awaited showdown, and it did not disappoint. Evan Rachel Wood and Tessa Thompson had electric tension as they battled for the narrative upper hand, one on her violent quest, the other doing everything it takes to survive. Dolores has firmly decided her path, and humanity had better watch out. Yet there was still time for her to show what she considers “mercy” towards her father, even as she cut the decryption key and data stored in his control unit out of his noggin.
In Maeve’s world, things were far less rosy. She had finally reconnected with her “daughter” from her previous narrative, only for things to start repeating. But her conflict with William this week felt like justice being served. It actually looked like the writers might be willing to kill him this week, but it looks like he’ll be around for a while yet. He’s certainly not in a good state, though. And Maeve herself is in dire straits, shot by the QA team summoned by Lee Sizemore, who seemed to be trying to help her, only to abandon her again at the base. Her meeting Dolores felt organic to the plot, though she didn’t exactly benefit much from it.
Aside from a few minor quibbles (such as the show falling prey to the trope of main characters looking like they were about to die and then their attacker being distracted, allowing them to escape) and our continued belief that poor Angela Sarafyan has been ill-served this year), the episode was a winner in our books. A lot of the major characters clashed and many of the main mysteries were solved, while lingering questions remain. Westworld has been through a big buildup process, and it was worth it to get an hour such as Les Écorchés. Yes, there was a lot of scenes of people giving speeches, but they were delivered so well, it never brought things grinding to a halt. Next week, we’re supposedly focusing on the Ghost Nation, so hopefully that will bring their characters more into focus and show how they fit into the grand scheme of things. And that the momentum built up in the story won’t suddenly be extinguished.
1. Just how many versions of Bernard did Ford (and Dolores) go through in their attempt to make him as good as he’s become. The scene with multiple disused Host Bernard’s was creepy as anything.
2. The destruction of the Cradle means the hosts can no longer come back to life. Dolores sees this as freedom from their chains, but what of poor Clementine? And they’d better not kill Teddy, the bastards.
3. That said, if you can still cut a control unit out of a Host’s head, could you just find another Host (or a copy) and bring them back?
4. If the more recent solider arrivals are supposed to be the best of the best, why did that idiot not just shoot Angela before she destroyed the Cradle? At least we got to see Talulah Riley get the better of someone one last time.
5. Should Elsie really just jack it all in and go to be a dentist? She’d be a sarcastic dentist, to be sure.
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Westworld airs on HBO in the US on Sunday nights and Mondays on Sky Atlantic in the UK